17 November 2021

Jakob Søgaard's research in Goldin's monograph


Claudia Goldin, professor of economics at Harvard, traces women's journey to close the gender wage gap in her new monograph Career & Family and refers to Jakob Søgaard's research on 'the child penalty' when she argues that children are the drivers in the persistent gender earning gaps.

A century ago, it was a given that a woman with a college degree had to choose between having a career and a family. Today, there are more female college graduates than ever before, and more women want to have a career and family, yet challenges persist at work and at home.

In her book, the renowned economic historian traces how generations of women have responded to the problem of balancing career and family as the twentieth century experienced a sea change in gender equality, revealing why true equity for dual career couples remains frustratingly out of reach.

She draws on decades of her own research and finds few reasons to cite the works of peers. But a work she does use is the one of Søgaard (with Kleven and Landais): Children and Gender Inequality: Evidence from Denmark arguing that the child penalty is likely driving the large and persistent gender earnings gaps observed empirically after a childbirth. 

Thomas' recommendations

Our own Thomas Høgholm Jørgensen has read the book and recommends it warmly. In Thomas' own words:

"Goldin first describes how gender differences in the labor market and in the household has changed across several birth-cohorts from 1978 through 2000. She divides these women into five groups based on their year of birth and discusses how data from the US shows how they have differed with respect to careers and family formation.

Building on this, she identifies a major role for inflexible careers as a key driver of gender inequality. She defines these types of “winners take all” careers as typically being “greedy” on the time of the employee. She contrasts this with the fact the raising a family is also quite greedy in the time of (at least one) parent. She notes that likely due to gender norms, it has then been the woman, who had to give up the high-paying career at the greedy employer to take care of the greedy children.

Using the research of Kleven, Landais and Søgaard, she argues that this is likely driving the large and persistence gender earnings gaps observed empirically after a childbirth.

Based on this, Goldin proposes that the labor market should be changed to put more emphasis on flexibility and not punish temporary flexibility as hard as many greedy careers do currently. She basically argues that the bulk of the gender differences we see is not due to discrimination but due to women opting out of their careers to take care of children. notes that the fact that it is women, and not men, who does that is likely due to gender norms in society, stemming from the past many generations of women, who experiences severe discrimination, discussed in the first part of the book.

One could argue that if we could change the gender norms, we could also solve the labor market gender inequality. But, as Goldin notes, this would still leave a large couple inequality if only one has a high-paying career."